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After delays and controversy, House approves domestic violence bill

Updated: 3:19 p.m. ET

After months of delays and debate, the House today approved the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a new version of a formerly longstanding law aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence.

The bill, which the Senate approved earlier this month, passed by a bipartisan vote of 286-138.The bill will now to President Obama for final approval.

The law was originally passed in 1994 as part of a larger crime bill, and has been reauthorized twice since then. But efforts in 2011 to again extend it failed, amid Republican concerns about expanded protections for undocumented immigrants and same-sex couples. No similar legislation has made it through Congress until today.

During Senate debate over the bill several weeks ago, Republicans had expressed particular concerns about a provision that would enable the prosecution in tribal courts of attackers who are not of American Indian descent, arguing that that it would expand the reach of tribal court power. But amid pressure from Democrats and women's advocacy groups, and an ongoing GOP struggle to appeal more broadly to women, a significant number of Republicans voted for the bill anyway.

Shortly before the vote on this Democratic-penned bill, the House voted against a GOP version that excluded provisions protecting LGBT and Native American victims. The bill was rejected along bipartisan lines by a vote of 166-257.

Upon passage in the House, the Senate bill's supporters applauded and cheered. Later in the afternoon, Vice President Joe Biden stopped by a pre-existing Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month event to deliver remarks on the news, and said working to protect victims of domestic violence was the "proudest" with which he's been associated.

"Until it is accepted it is the norm, that any man who raises his hand to a woman on a date is a coward, and treated as such, until that day comes, we still have a long way to go," he said.

The vice president also praised House leaders from both sides of the aisle for making the bill's success possible.  

"Leaders from both parties made this possible... including a man who is -- has kept his word, a man who is viewed as sort of the anti--the anti-administration person, but is a friend of mine, Eric Cantor," Biden said. "He kept his word: He said he'd let, he'd let the Congress speak. He could have prevented this from coming to a vote under the ordinary rules that have been employed in the past, but he didn't. So I want to, probably hurt him, but I want to publicly thank him. Because he kept his word, where I come from, your word matters."

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